THE SECRET ISLAND
In southern Japan lies a Unesco World Heritage Listed island that fulfils all of your deepest island fantasies. You have the sea, the Kyushu mountains, and a dense subtropical rainforest with some of the oldest trees in the world. It’s a place where wild deer and monkeys roam free (and in fact outnumber the inhabitants). Where you can see giant turtles, luxuriate in the hot springs, and pay your respects to Jōmon Sogi, a tree that’s estimated to be between 2600 and 7200 years old. The only way to add to this picture is with a hotel and resort whose mission is ‘sustainable luxury’.
Sankara Hotel & Spa lies on the coast of Yakushima and is made up of elegant Balinese style villas and cottages, equipped with spectacular views of the sea and forest, private decks and open-air baths. Indulge in a Thai heat treatment after a day of hiking and finish it off with a 3-course French meal prepared by chef Chiharu Takei, who trained at 3 Michelin star restaurants such as Joël Robuchon (joel-robuchon.com). All products are locally sourced, and many of the wild herbs and vegetables are gathered fresh from the mountains. Additionally, the hotel donates a percentage of its earnings towards protecting the natural environment, stating it aims for sustainability as ‘exemplified by the ancient yakusugi (cedar trees)’.
Sankara Hotel & Spa Yakushima
553 Haginoue, Mugio, Yakushima-cho, Kumage-gun,
Tel. +81-997-47-3488 Fax. +81-997-47-3489
DESIGN & CONTEMPLATION
Fifteen hundred metres above sea level in South Tyrol, you can breath deep. The air is fresh and the sky seems close enough to touch. In the distance, the Dolomite mountains rise up without interruption. This is the Vigilius Mountain Resort. Accessible only by cable car in car-free Vigiljoch, you can truly leave everything behind. Designed by architect Matteo Thun to embody a strong commitment to ecological principles, it is a synergistic blend of nature and architecture. The elegant wood structure uses natural renewable materials, ecologically sound heating, plumbing and efficient use of the precious spring water that Vigiljoch is famous for.
Bathe in the spring water pool with its panoramic windows that seamless merge with the outside. Enjoy the cuisine, which is natural, seasonal and fresh, and choose from the numerous services available, such as a personal trainer, and various massages and treatments. But the best part is everywhere you look you have a view of the valley and mountains, which allows you to experience first-hand the resort’s philosophy of reflection, where ‘Distant views enable an unobstructed view of oneself.’
Vigilius Mountain Resort
Vigiljoch Mountain, I-39011 Lana,
South Tyrol, Italy
Tel. +39 0473 556600
BARON IN THE TREES
Arrive by raft on the Pacuare River. Travel through pristine wilderness, canyons and waterfalls to reach your final destination: Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica. It’s a hotel in the trees and if you’ve ever had fantasies from reading Calvino’s Baron in the Trees, then this is probably as close as you’ll get to the real thing. Its thatched roof bungalows are built with sustainable design and material, and come complete with plantation teak floors, solar heated showers, and views of the surrounding rainforest. Activities range from luxurious body wraps in volcanic mud to the more adventurous. White-water raft down the river or swing through the trees like your own personal version of Tarzan, except suspended by cables and a harness and hopefully minus the loincloth. You also have the opportunity to experience traditional culture, by meeting clans of the Cabécar Indians and walking the same trails they’ve used for centuries.
All food is organic and locally grown, cooked by young people from nearby communities. You can enjoy a candle-lit dinner on a platform 20 metres high, after gliding in from a 150m cable. Then afterwards fall asleep to the lull of the river and the howler monkey (or don’t. They make one hell of a racket).
Limon, Costa Rica
Tel. (506) 2225-3939 / 2224-0505
UNDER THE DESERT SKY
Imagine this: a desert landscape stretching out as far as the eye can see, the sky lit by a thousand stars, and you at the centre of it all, on a rooftop terrace in the Feynan Ecolodge. This lodge is a sandstone oasis in the heart of the mountainous Dana Biosphere, Jordan’s largest nature reserve. It’s staffed by local Bedouins, lit almost entirely by candles at night, while solar power provides electricity for hot water. It seems at once both monastic and indulgent. The cuisine is all vegetarian and inspired by traditional Arab cuisine, while much of the produce is acquired from nearby farms. The bread is baked daily by a local Bedouin woman. During the day you can hike through the rocky canyons of the reserve, which, because it includes four different bio-geographical zones, offers the most diverse fauna and flora in the country. You’ll find rare species of plants and animals, some of which have only been reported as seen in Dana. Otherwise, visit artisan leather and candle workshops and take a guided tour by a local Bedouin. Return to the lodge just in time to catch the sunset over the mountains.
Al-Ba’ouniyah st. #8, Jabal Al-Weibdeh
Tel. +9626 464 5580
INTO THE WILD
This place may not actually be that remote (it’s located outside Skinnskatteberg, just two hours away from Stockholm) but it certainly feels like it. With no electricity and no showers this is as basic as you can get. And maybe that’s part of the appeal. If you’ve ever felt the secret longing to go back to nature and strip away all that’s unimportant, then this is your chance. Here, you live in a hut with no more than a couple of wooden beds, a fireplace, and a sheepskin rug to keep you warm. You chop your own wood, fetch water from the spring and cook over an open fire. All around you is only forest, rich with wildlife. Spend your days fishing, hiking, spotting moose, wolf tracking and picking berries. Take the plunge into the clear waters of Lake Skärsjön (note: outside of the summer months this is best done after a hot sauna, which conveniently is found floating on the lake).
Text by Stephanie Ong